Insider: Thumbs up to Elliott, down to red zone offense
Jayrone Elliott didn't play his way onto the 53-man roster Saturday, but he probably did enough to land on the coaches' radar. If you stepped away to grab something in the fridge during the fourth quarter, you likely missed it. All Elliott needed was one series. The undrafted free agent linebacker from Toledo had three sacks in the span of four plays, forcing the Rams to lose 23 yards. On his third sack, Elliott forced a fumble that the Rams recovered. In all, the Packers had seven sacks — more than double the Rams' total. It's hard to be more explosive as a pass rusher than Elliott was in the fourth quarter. Said coach Mike McCarthy: "What could you say, the young man gets a chance like that. We wanted to make sure he got more reps this week. (Adrian) Hubbard also. And then just the production. Once again that would fall in the big-play category and on top of it, to see the sideline get behind the young guys, that's what good teams do. We're growing. We improved today."
Twenty-one points on the road isn't bad, not when the offensive starters play only two series. Still, the Packers left plenty of points on the field. Green Bay had four trips into the red zone, and only one finished with a touchdown. Twice, the Packers had touchdown passes called back for penalties on the offensive line. Much better efficiency is needed in the regular season. Those chances can't be missed against a defense like Seattle's.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• No position battle has gotten more attention this preseason than wide receiver. On Saturday, the Packers flexed their wealth of depth when it comes to pass catchers. Fourteen players caught at least one pass, while five caught multiple passes. The Packers have plenty of weapons to choose from in their passing game, which will make for difficult decisions when cuts come later this month.
• Overall, it was a solid defensive effort from the Packers starters and reserves. But for the second straight game, the Packers starters allowed a touchdown on their final play. The Rams' lone score came in the second quarter when tight end Lance Kendricks caught an 11-yard pass from Sam Bradford. It's hard to blame the Packers' defense — safety Micah Hyde had almost perfect coverage and was beaten by an even better throw. Still, coaches will likely stress the importance of finishing with a good impression in practice this week.
• It was the NFL preseason, but fans got a taste of one of college football's greatest rivalries when Packers rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix beat a block from Rams rookie running back Tre Mason in the second half. Clinton-Dix played his college football at Alabama, while Mason played at Auburn. Both players entered the NFL after their junior seasons. Auburn famously beat Alabama in last season's Iron Bowl on one of the wildest endings in college football history. Clinton-Dix got the last laugh Saturday.
• Rams defensive end Michael Sam made history when he became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL this offseason. On Saturday, the late seventh-round pick made the biggest play of his young pro career when he sacked Packers quarterback Matt Flynn for a 10-yard loss. It's never a certainty for late-round draftees to make the 53-man roster. Big plays like Sam's sack always help.
• Jordy Nelson returned to the field after missing the Packers' preseason opener with a hamstring issue last weekend. Nelson caught a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers that was nullified because of a penalty, but there were more subtle plays that held up. On three occasions, Nelson made critical blocks downfield to help spring big plays. Most importantly, there were no signs of any lingering negative problems from his hamstring injury.